Sunday, October 31, 2021

From the G20 to COP

Over the weekend the Prime Minister attended the G20 Summit in Rome, meeting with world leaders ahead of the COP26 Summit in Glasgow, as Britain and other nations continue to work together to combat climate change and build back greener from the pandemic.

  • Ahead of the COP26 summit - the G20 meeting in Rome gives us the opportunity to highlight the aims of this historic summit, as well as how we build back better from the pandemic alongside our international allies.
  • Britain has agreed to provide at least 20 million more Oxford/AstraZeneca doses to the world’s poor in 2022 to ensure we all beat the virus – we also agreed that Iran can never develop or acquire a nuclear weapon, and an agreement on girls' education – providing £50 million to help those in Afghanistan most at risk under the Taliban regime.
  • We must now build on this work and grasp the historic opportunity to deliver on commitments made to reduce emissions and protect our planet as we build back greener from the pandemic.

The start of the "Conference of the Parties" (COP) summit in Glasgow

Today the world meets in Glasgow to mark the beginning of the COP26 Summit – bringing together over 25,000 delegates to work together to combat the impacts of climate change.

  • COP26 is the world’s last, best chance to reach agreement on the action needed to avert catastrophic climate change and support those already experiencing its effects.
  • The UK’s leadership is already showing key signs of progress as almost 80 per cent of the world’s economy is now covered by net zero targets, up from less than 30 per cent when the UK took on the Presidency of COP26 – we will continue to lead the way as we convene world leaders over the next two weeks.
  • As the largest international summit we have ever hosted – it will be a challenge to get agreements but this is the best chance to make the changes now and lead the world in tackling climate change. 

Quote of the day 31st October 2021

"Intellect is not wisdom"
(Thomas Sowell, American economist)

Why repeated three times?
In the words of Lewis Carroll, "What I tell you three times is true." 

Bad weather continues - latest warning for wind and rain

Yellow weather warnings are for Cumbria and much of the rest of North West England today (Sunday 31st October) and tomorrow (Monday.1st November 2021)

Strong winds are expected across the coast of north west England between midnight and 10am on Monday morning.

There is also a yellow weather warning for rain across the north west, with the Met Office saying: "Several further spells of heavy rainfall are likely to impact this region, bringing some further localised flooding and travel disruption."

Stay safe this Hallowe'en.

All Soul's Day

Today is All Soul's day when we remember all who have died. I lit a candle at St Jame's church after the Eucharist this morning and prayed for all those we have lost - those who have died in the pandemic, James Brokenshire, Sir David Amess, victims of war and terrorism and of natural disasters from Afghanistan to Haiti. So many tragedies this year.

Halloween music spot: "Danse Macabre" by Saint Saens

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Watch out for more rain and flooding tomorrow!

 The Met Office has issued a yellow rain warning for tomorrow (Sunday 31 October) with heavy rain likely across Cumbria.

Please stay safe. YOu can get more information by:

Heavy check mark Keeping up-to-date with Met Officeweather forecasts & warnings at: and

Heavy check mark Signing up for free flood warnings at:

Heavy check mark Checking the latest Environment Agency flood alerts/warnings at:

Heavy check mark Following @TheFloodHub on twitter

- a one-stop shop for flood advice to support householders, businesses & communities.

Project Gigabit report

The government has reported here on Project Gigabit, the plan to upgrade high speed broadband to help families and businesses by making it easier and faster to do things online.

As the world’s digital revolution continues apace, the infrastructure that connects us is more important than ever. This is the third Project Gigabit quarterly update and, thanks to the work of industry and our record £5 billion investment, we are making phenomenal progress delivering the biggest broadband rollout in UK history.

Britain has now passed the connectivity halfway mark. More than 57 percent of UK homes and businesses - that’s 17.5 million properties - can now access the fastest broadband speeds available; and  children in more than a thousand schools are now enjoying gigabit internet speeds thanks to government investment.

While we have already made great strides, we still have some of the most challenging parts of our four nations to reach - a considerable undertaking involving industry, regulators, investors, local councils, MPs, consumer groups, landowners, landlords, and citizens working together to push us further and faster towards being a fully gigabit nation.

As gigabit-capable connectivity accelerates, the government will ensure the right measures are in place to support the market to deliver as much as possible, not least in connecting hard-to-reach premises.

In the autumn update to the Project Gigabit Delivery Plan which you can find here, are reports on progress with Phase 1 roll-outs and Phase 2 procurements. It also includes the sequencing and dates of English Phase 3 rural projects, covering around 500,000 premises in Essex, Lincolnshire, Devon & Somerset, Herefordshire & Gloucestershire, Dorset, Cheshire, and North Yorkshire.

There are details of an additional £8 million to deliver full-fibre to 3,600 premises in Scotland, as part of the Scottish Government’s R100 project, and c.£22.6m to connect rural and remote parts of Northern Ireland.

Gigabit broadband will bring much faster and more reliable connectivity to rural and hard-to-reach communities. This will make them more attractive places for people to settle, raise families and start and grow businesses, improve education and healthcare services and increase accessibility.

This is how we level up - ensuring rural communities have the same chances and opportunities as our urban towns and cities. That’s why this is at the top of the Government’s agenda, and as Secretary of State, The Conservagtive government is fully committed to making Project Gigabit a UK success story.

Report Summary

The government is confident that with the support of the £5bn committed, the UK is on track for 85% gigabit coverage by 2025 and that we can push further towards 100% coverage.

The previous Project Gigabit Summer Update showed there are more commercial plans to deliver gigabit capability in the UK than ever before. In the Project Gigabit Autumn Update are reports on a significant further expansion in commercial plans, including more telecoms providers focused on building in under-served rural areas. Greater commercial investment is positive for the UK and shows strong market confidence in customer demand for gigabit infrastructure.

The government has now received information from 38 telecoms providers in surveys of 18 of the 38 Regional Supplier areas, and is announcing timing for more of the remaining areas. There have been  adjustments to some of our procurement plans, which underscores the need to react and adapt our approach to give room for commercial investment, while targeting interventions to the hardest-to-reach homes and businesses.

The extent of commercial investment plans, considerably in excess of any previous plans we have seen, has led to more rounds of discussions with the market and as a result, a small amount of delay. 

Updated details for particular areas such as Cumbria are as follows:

  • In Cumbria, the first of the Regional Supplier procurements, procurement has been launched for gigabit broadband to 62,000 premises, with investment of up to £109m.
  • In Cambridgeshire, it is now expected to procure 40,000 to 50,000 premises.
  • In east Essex, the first area targeted for a Local Supplier procurement, commercial plans were so extensive that there were only approximately 800 premises where intervention could be justified and so targeted Gigabit Vouchers will be used as they will provide a better solution than procurement in this case.
  • In Dorset, the government has identified a potential Local Supplier procurement which combines two potential Local Supplier areas and will complement significant commercial plans for telecoms providers active in the area.
  • The government plans to combine Regional Supplier procurement areas in Northumberland and Durham, and have found two areas where Local Supplier procurements will offer bidding opportunities to more telecoms providers.

The government continues to learn and adapt its processes and has praised the work telecoms providers and local partners have contributed to help improve government telecoms investment plans.

The Autumn Update includes more information on how we plan procurements, expanding on the Public Review classifications we reported in the Summer. Further information is also provided on the approach to Gigabit Vouchers. Where significant voucher projects are underway, the government plans to keep momentum by deferring other interventions, even in areas where procurement is also taking place such as Cumbria, Northumberland and Durham.

The government has also published more information on the evaluation of the benefits of the Superfast Broadband programme, including the latest independent assessment calculating that between £3.60 and £5.10 of benefit is generated per £1 of net public sector spending on Telcommunications.

Update on commercial investment in UK gigabit infrastructure

The government reported in the summer on Openreach’s updated target of 25 million full-fibre premises, including an extra 3 million premises in predominantly rural areas. Virgin Media O2’s ongoing upgrades to bring their existing hybrid fibre/copper network infrastructure up to gigabit speeds has helped the UK reach the halfway point, and it now intends to ultimately replace this existing network with full-fibre, on top of its ambition to grow it out by a further 7-10 million premises.

In the last few weeks, CityFibre has raised £1.125bn to fund the next phase of its network rollout to over 8 million premises and to participate in Project Gigabit; and Axione Fibre has been established with an initial £300m to target both suburban and rural areas. These are on top of funding announcements by Broadway Partners (£145m), Zzoomm (£100m), Grain (£75m), Trooli (£67m) and internet service provider TalkTalk investing in Freedom Fibre.

Other suppliers have provided updates on the scale of their networks and their plans: Gigaclear with 175,000 premises passed, Netomnia with 50,000, Fibrus with 58,000, and Full Fibre with 15,000 per month. Beacons Telecom, Borderlink, County Broadband, YouFibre, Upp, Voneus, VX Fibre, Wildanet, and 1310 have all announced progress in building networks or connecting customers. Connexin, Ecom, G.Network, Glide, InterneTY, Jurassic Fibre, Kloud9, SWS and WeFibre all provided updates on their plans during the period. AJ Technology, Alnwick, Hampstead Fibre, Ociusnet, Rymote, Scotnet and Simwood have all applied to Ofcom for Code Powers to help them progress their own full-fibre plans.

Progress has also been made with community projects, such as StrathspeyNow delivering gigabit connectivity over fixed wireless in rural areas beyond Grantown-on-Spey.

This expansion is creating hundreds of new jobs, including 400 at Virgin Media O2 and 100 at Wessex Internet. Ogi has recently grown to 100 employees and expects this to reach 140.

Collectively, these announcements demonstrate the market’s commitment to deliver gigabit-capable networks to at least 80% of UK premises by December 2025. With the £5bn Project Gigabit targeted at the remaining uncommercial areas, we are increasingly confident in delivering gigabit coverage for 85% of UK premises by 2025 and pushing further towards 100% nationwide coverage.

(In the interests of full disclosure and transparency I should make clear that I am an Openreach employee and a BT shareholder. I am not writing in that capacity. Everything in this post comes from published government sources and nothing directly from BT or Openreach.

Clocks go back tonight!

British Summer Time ends tonight and we get an extra hour.

It is said that there is many a true word spoken in jest and I think this is an example ...

November meeting of Cumbria County Council

 The November 2021 meeting of Cumbria County Council will be held at 10 a.m. this coming Thursday (4th November 2021) at Carlisle Racecourse, Durdar Road, Carlisle.

The full agenda and supporting documents can be found on the CCC website at

Agenda for County Council on Thursday, 4th November, 2021, 10.00 am | Cumbria County Council

The main agenda items are:

Minutes of the last meeting and meetings of the county cabinet & committees (Agenda items 5, 7, 14 and 15)

8. Corporate Parenting Board Annual Update Report

9. Youth Justice Plan 2021-22

10. Extemding the term of an independent member of the standards committee (to reflect the extended term of this session of the council before it winds up in 2023)

11. Treasury Management Half Year Strategy Review 2021/2022 

12. Revised Code of Conduct

13. Questions from councillors  to the Leader, member of the executive or committee.chairs

16. Notice of Motions

I have proposed a motion asking the Constitutional Review Group to look at how democratically the council is functioning and whether more can be done to improve transparency and the input from elected councillors. It reads as follows:

Mr C Whiteside to move:

This council requests the Constitution Review Group to review the issue of transparency and maximising appropriate member involvement in decision making and consider and report back to full council on possible amendments to the council constitution, standing orders and scheme of delegation in respect of the following:

  • Whether more can be done to ensure that decisions taken by officers or individual members do not have the practical effect that they revoke, cancel, or frustrate a lawful decision taken after due process by the full council or by a committee of the council acting within its powers, and that if an officer or portfolio holder believes that such a decision needs to be reconsidered it should be referred back to the original committee or, if appropriate, to the full council
  • Whether more can be done to ensure that lawful decisions of the council or its committees are not frustrated by any internal or external actor through delay.
  • Whether more can be done to ensure that all decisions on planning applications. including the view on the merits of a planning application fed into any appeal or call-in process take full account of the views of the members of the DC&R committee as the members with the most appropriate training and knowledge to give an informed view on behalf of the council



Saturday music spot: The King's Singers version of the Overture from Rossini's "The Barber Of Seville"

Quote of the day 30th October 2021


Friday, October 29, 2021

Music to start the weekend: The King's Singers sing "The Windmills of Your Mind"

A question for today

 Am I the only person who is sick to death of hearing Rishi described as a high spending, high tax chancellor

- which to deal with the pandemic he's had to be - 

by people whose response to EVERY individual spending decision he made was to ask why he wasn't spending  vastly more?

World Stroke Day 2021

Today is World stroke day - an opportunity to raise awareness of how serious strokes can be and how to respond to them. When someone has a stroke, every second counts in getting them treatment as soon as possible. Remember, act F.A.S.T, for 

FACE drooping -

ARM weakness -

SPEECH difficulty -

TIME to call an Ambulance.

My late father was a stroke survivor. He had his first stroke when he was in his mid-thirties and I was a toddler, and it had life-changing consequences. He had his second stroke in his late sixties: fortunately I was there and although I did not understand what was happening, I realised that he needed urgent attention and called 999 and an ambulance arrived quickly and got him fast treatment.  Another stroke hit while he was on his own in his early seventies and this one killed him.

When somebody has a stroke, every second that goes by is crucial. As brain tissue and millions of neurons begin to fade away, time could not be more precious. The World Stroke day #Precioustime campaign aims to raise awareness of stroke signs and the benefits of timely access to emergency medical care.

Around the world over 13 million people have a stroke each year and around 5.5 million people will die as a result. 

The impact of stroke can be short-term, long-term, or both depending on which part of the brain is affected and how quickly it is treated. Stroke survivors can experience wide-ranging disabilities including difficulties with mobility and speech, as well as how they think and feel. 

Fast access to treatment saves lives and improves recovery. If you spot the signs of stroke, call an ambulance immediately.


 Know the signs: if you see a stroke, act F.A.S.T.

Record staff numbers now working in the NHS

Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced this morning that he is delighted to see record staff numbers working in the NHS including 5,500 more doctors & 10,000 more nurses.

The NHS is recruiting even more people to join their ranks to help us recover from COVID-19 and to tackle the backlog.

Quote of the day 29th October 2021 - Angela Rayner's apology

“While I have been away from the cut and thrust of Parliament I have reflected on our political debate and the threats and abuse that now seem to feature all too often.

“I have also reflected on what I said at an event at Labour Party conference. I was angry about where our country is headed and policies that have made life harder for so many people I represent.

“But I would like to unreservedly apologise for the language I used, and I would not use it again. I will continue to speak my mind, stand up for Labour values and hold the Government to account. But in the future I will be more careful about how I do that and in the language that I choose,”

(Rt Hon Angela Rayner MP, deputy leader of the Labour party, apologising on Facebook yesterday for calling senior Conservatives "scum."

I hope that people of all persuasions can now move on from this and that all of us can be more careful in the language we use.)

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Putting more police on our streets

The Conservatives are well on our way to delivering the promise to put more bobbies on the beat with the news that 11,053 additional police officers have been recruited across England and Wales – putting us on track to deliver our manifesto commitment to recruit 20,000 by 2023, keeping communities safe.

  • We are determined to crack down on crime and back our police with the powers and officers they need to shut down drug gangs, take knives off our streets, and protect communities.
  • That is why since 2019 we have recruited an additional 11,053 police officers across England and Wales, putting us on track to deliver on our manifesto promise of 20,000 by 2023– with figures showing that over four in ten new recruits are women.
  • Every police force area in our country will benefit from more officers, meaning safer streets, secure neighbourhoods, and more support for victims.

Music to relax after campaigning: Fugue in G-minor (BWV 578) by J.S. Bach

Geoff Mitchell for Currock and Upperby!

Despite the horrible weather today and a diversions past a number of stretches of road which had been flooded, I managed to get safely to Carlisle just in time for the rain to stop while I was campaigning for our excellent Conservative candidate in today's Currock and Upperby council by-election, Geoff Mitchell. Good luck Geoff!


Watch out for flooding

Take great care if you are travelling anywhere in Cumbria or South West Scotland today.

The Met office issued a warning of heavy rain and possible flooding and they were right. The A595 is flooded in places where it runs through Whitehaven as the Loop Road - as are other parts of Whitehaven which, if you did not know the area, you might not believe it possible to have a flooding problem. 

Just took this from Twitter

Quote of the day 28th October 2021

"Leadership is a journey, not a destination. 

It is continually challenged and must prove itself anew against fresh obstacles. 

Sometimes those obstacles are external events. Sometimes they are the doubts of those being led. 

Still other times they are the results of the leaders' own failures and shortcomings." 

(Quotes attributed to the Star Wars character Grand Admiral Thrawn by Youtuber "Star Wars Bengels.")

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Protecting rivers

There has been much concern about pollution in rivers and the potential for storm overflows to contribute to this problem. The government has listened and will be changing legislation already on the way through parliament.

Yesterday it was announced that the Environment Bill will be strengthened further by enshrining into law requirements on water companies to significantly reduce discharges from storm overflows.

  • Storm overflows help to prevent sewers being overloaded in wet weather and backing up into homes and businesses – but greater rainfall caused by climate change as well as increases in population mean they have been used more often in recent years.
  • That is why yesterday the government announced a new amendment to the Environment Bill, which will enshrine into law a duty on water companies to secure a progressive reduction in discharges from storm overflows, as part of the direct action we are taking to tackle storm overflows through a swathe of measures in the Environment Bill.#
  • The government will continue to challenge underperforming companies and increase monitoring to protect our rivers and streams from water pollution as we work towards our long-term goal of eliminating harm from storm overflows.

Midweek music spot: the Grand Admiral Thrawn Theme from Star Wars

A budget to build a stronger economy for Britain

Today the Chancellor delivered the Autumn Budget and Spending Review, setting out how the Conservatives are delivering a stronger economy for the British people as we build back better from the pandemic.

One year ago, this country was in the grip of the biggest recession in 300 years. Thanks to our Plan For Jobs, we are today recovering faster than our major competitors, more people are in work, and growth is up. But uncertainty in the global economy means that recovery is now under threat.

That is why this Budget and Spending Review delivers a stronger economy for the British people:

  • Strengthening our public finances, ensuring debt is falling again, and rebuilding our resilience
  • Helping working families meet the cost of living and supporting vulnerable households
  • Supporting businesses with post-Brexit tax reforms, tax cuts and incentives to invest
  • Delivering stronger public services across all departments
  • Driving economic growth – by investing in infrastructure, innovation and skills
  • This is a Budget which invests in a more innovative, high-skill economy, delivers world-class public services, backs business, helps working families with the cost of living – and levels up every part of the United Kingdom. It is a Budget which provides the foundations for a stronger economy.

Quote of the day 27th October 2021


Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Quote of the day 26th October 2021

Until I spotted this one last week, yesterday's quote of the day ("There are no solutions, there are only trade-offs") was my favourite Thomas Sowell quote.

This is my new favourite.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Monday music spot: Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Winter.

Adult Social Care recruitment

The government has announced £162.5 million in extra funding to help the adult social care workforce boost recruitment and continue providing high-quality care for everyone who needs it. 

We all owe our social care workforce an enormous debt of gratitude for their work during the pandemic – and the Conservative government is determined to make the bold decisions to reform social care to prioritise their skills and wellbeing.

So, to boost the number of people working in adult social care, the government is investing £162.5 million in a new retention and recruitment fund for local authorities across England, on top of £388 million in infection control funding. 

Everyone deserves to be cared for with dignity and respect. This funding, as well as our wider reforms, will bring Britain closer to having a world-leading social care system.

Quote of the day 25th October 2021

I have not reposted this because I have run out of quotes. I have reposted this because it bears repeating.


Sunday, October 24, 2021

Sunday music spot: "If ye love me" by Thomas Tallis

The Get Help with Technology programme

The government has announced a £126 million investment in laptops and tablets to help care leavers, children with a social worker and vulnerable children arriving from Afghanistan access their education and fulfil their potential. 

  • While talent is spread evenly across the country, opportunity is not, and we need to  continue to support children most in need with resources for their education. 
  • That is why the government is expanding the Get Help with Technology Programme by investing £126 million in laptops and tablets to provide up to 500,000 devices for disadvantaged children – to boost their learning in school and improve the life chances of those in the care system, including some of the most vulnerable children we have recently taken in from Afghanistan.
  • Conservatives are determined to help all children and young people, no matter their background, to access education and support for a better and brighter future.

Quote of the day 24th October 2021


Friday, October 22, 2021

Better broadband for schools, continued

Children in more than a thousand schools are now enjoying next-generation internet speeds thanks to government investment. 

And the government has launched a call for evidence on people's digital needs and what should be done to enable digital access to be improved further.

Five million people have had a booster jab


Music to start the weekend: Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata

Quote of the day 22nd October 2021

"You should never point a gun at a man unless you intend to use it"

(Anonymous, but similar to statements by General George Patton and one of the first rules in any good guide to firearms safety)

Winter Vaccine drive

The government has today launched a national advertising campaign alongside the largest ever winter vaccine drive – to boost vaccine uptake and strengthen our defensive wall against Covid over the winter months.

As we enter the winter months, seasonal weather increases transmission of viruses, including flu and Covid - it is vital that all those eligible to get a first vaccine dose, booster, or flu jab do so to protect themselves, their loved ones and the NHS. 

That is why the government is working with national pharmacies including Boots and advertising booster jabs on billboards, radio, and on TV shows such as Coronation street – while rolling out the biggest flu programme in history with 35 million people eligible for a free vaccine, after already administering over 4 million booster doses.

The government does have a Plan B to avoid a rise in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS. These measures will be introduced if and only if they are needed.

Anyone who is eligible and has been invited to come forward to get their jab should do so. This is a national mission to continue providing the best possible protection against the virus.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Quote of the day 21st October 2021


Remembering James Brokenshire

The funeral takes place at noon today for James Brokenshire, MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup and a former cabinet minister, who died from with cancer a few days ago after a three-year battle with the disease.

He was 53 years old and leaves a widow, Cathy, and three children, Sophie, Jemma and Ben

James and I go back more than thirty years to when we were both Young Conservatives: he was my successor but one as Chairman of the East of England Area Young Conservatives. I attended his and Cathy's wedding and a year or two later they came to mine.

James was a highly intelligent, kind, practical and reasonable man and a dedicated public servant. Most people will never know of some of the things he did to protect them.

He is a great loss to politics - he will be an even greater loss to his family.

Rest in Peace.

UK and New Zealand trade deal announced

Today the UK government has announced an historic new free trade agreement between the UK and New Zealand, cutting tariffs and creating opportunities as we unlock the potential of Global Britain.

  • The UK and New Zealand are close partners, with a shared belief in free and fair trade and a mutual desire to strengthen our relationship and boost our economies.
  • That is why the UK and New Zealand government have reached an agreement in principle that paves the way for an historic trade deal with New Zealand, cutting tariffs on goods, increasing access for our services and making it easier for UK professionals to live and work in New Zealand.
  • This world-leading free trade agreement will drive growth across the UK, cutting red tape for British businesses and opening up access for our workers – boosting our economy as we build back better.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Midweek music spot: Handel's "Waft her, Angels, through the skies"


 Another good performance of the same piece.

Campaigning resumes

A pause in political campaigning was declared by CCHQ immediately as a mark of respect following the tragic murder of Sir David Amess MP,

This was maintained until Tuesday, but political campaigning has now resumed.

The Chief Medical Officer's latest advice:


How Liberty Dies

Youtube has been suggesting for weeks that I might be interested in watching the video below, "how liberty dies" and I eventually made the bad mistake of taking "a glance" at it late one night last weekend when I had been about to retire for the evening.

I am no longer allowed to display the sound and video on this blog but you can still watch and listen to it on Youtube by clicking on this link.

To be clear, the mistake was choosing that time to look at it and my wife quite rightly told me off an hour and twenty minutes later when I finally came to bed in the wee small hours. 

It wasn't a mistake to watch it and I strongly recommend it to anyone with an interest in politics. Just make sure that you have an hour ant twenty minutes clear. 

In "Star Wars III - Revenge of the Sith" Senator Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) says "So this is how liberty dies - to thunderous applause." 

This video pulls together material from all three Star Wars prequel films and animated series from "The Clone Wars" to "Star Wars Rebels" and this year's "The Bad Batch" to tell the story of the fall of a democratic republic and how it was replaced by a brutal dictatorship.

Of course, the Republic in Star Wars is unusually unfortunate in that Robert Conquest's third law does not just accurately predict its' behaviour but is literally true - both the Republic and its open opponents, the Separatists really are secretly controlled by a small group of Sith Lords whose aims are inimical to both.

The survival of free societies is not an inevitability and history offers many examples from the Greek city states through the Roman republic to the establishment of the Third Reich of how a democratic soceity can decay into tyranny, wehther the state that results calls itself and empire or a "People's democratic republic." (It seems, of corse, to be an unvarying rule that any state with "Democratic" in it's title, isn't.)

Do I think that democracy in the West is in immediate and urgent danger of being replaced by dictatorship? No.

But do I think that we can safely assume that it could never happen here? Again, No.

As per my "quote of the day" this morning, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. 

The author of this video, who calls himself "Arken the Amerikan" suggests that the saga of the fall of the republic in Star Wars draws parallel not just to real-world history but to contemporary politics as well. I think this is true: I don't think democracy is in as bad a state in the USA or Britain as it was in the galactic republic of the Star Wars stories even at the start of "The Phantom Menace" and before the rise of Sheev Palpatine.

The temptation for anyone watching this clip and making parallels with the real world might be to assume that the mistakes called out in the video correspond to the real-world errors of those we already disagree with. But we will learn far more from it if we ask ourselves whether we, and the people we support, are walking into some of the same traps. 

To illustrate the point, I had assumed that the author of the video was on one side of the political spectrum in America until at almost the end of the clip he repeats, too exactly for it to be anything other than a direct quote, a phrase coined by someone at exactly the opposite end of the mainstream political spectrum to where I had assumed he was coming from. 

So if the author is where I had placed him, it does not stop him reading and learning from the views of people who take a different view. Perhaps that too is something we can learn from this.

Quote and thought of the day 20th October: Where does a free society draw the line?

In 2011, in a public speech, Labour MP John McDonnell said this:

‘I want to be in a situation where no Tory MP, no Tory or MP, no Coalition Minister, can travel anywhere in the country or show their face anywhere in public without being challenged by direct action.’ 

He added: ‘Any institution or any individual that attacks our class, we will come for you with direct action.’

This year, according to The Times, an anti-vaxxer activist posted in a group chat on a secure messaging platform

“Pull up outside the front doors of every MP, news reader, editor, publisher . . . all of these f***ers need to know that we know who you are and we know where you live,” . 

“They will soon change up their actions when 20,000 are outside your house.”

McDonnell is still a Labour MP who served for a while as shadow chancellor and as the Corbynistas frequently remind us, could easily have been the actual chancellor if a few thousand more votes had been cast in particular marginal seats for Labour in 2017.

The anti-vaxxer movement is not yet a serious threat to democracy. But if it started acting on posts like that, it could become one.

I have no precise answer to the question of when a free society which wishes to remain one should use the force of law to act against those who openly incite the use of violence or intimidation to achieve their aims, other than that we should not be too quick to do so. But there is a problem there.

And although we should think once, twice, and three times before suppressing the speech of those who disagree with the majority of our society, there is no need to hesitate even once before calling out speeches which incite intimidation or violence. And when such speeches or posts are made, it is not just the political opponents of the people making them, but also democrats who support the same causes who should call out incitement like the speech by John McDonnell or that anti-vaxxer post as what they are - threats of mob rule, a menace to a free society and an attack on democracy.

We should all remember a sentiment often attributed to Ben Franklin. I am going to quote it in the form voiced by the actor Malcolm McDowell in the introduction to the game "Wing Commander IV - the price of freedom." 

In that game the character McDowell himself plays turns out to be the biggest threat to liberty so the irony - and it is an irony often echoed in the real world - is that the person giving the warning is also one of the very people it applies to, which does not make what he is saying untrue. He says,

"The price of Freedom is eternal vigilance."

Monday, October 18, 2021

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Sunday music spot: Henry Purcell's Evening Hymn, sung by Thomas Cooley, with Voices of Music

Let's appreciate our opponents while they are still alive

Yesterday at a church function one of the people attending said to me that he thought it was a good thing that the Prime Minister and leader of the opposition had put aside their differences that morning  to appear together laying floral tributes to the murdered MP Sir David Amess. 

I agreed entirely with him, as I have agreed with similar opinions on social media. 

But it should not be just when those opponents have died, when they retire or when they receive an honour that politicians feel able to say anything positive about their opponents.

We need to be much better at recognising the humanity and acknowledging good points put forward by our political opponents when they are alive and in the normal course of politics - and that goes for people of all political parties.

Many years ago the "Not the Nine o'clock News" comedy programme did a sketch which begins with two politicians insulting one another in the most vituperative terms on television when one of them, played by Rowan Atkinson, has a heart attack and drops dead live on air. The other, played by Mel Smith, segues seamlessly in the very middle of a sentence from harsh criticism of the living politician to platitudes praising the dead one.

I have no doubt that in the case of Sir David Amess, who really was a nice, kind person, who took his work seriously but never himself, who listened to anyone in his constituency, and died making himself accessible to the people he was elected to represent, it was the tributes which were sincere and that nobody who knew him intended comments like "scum" to refer to him.

But there were two or three politicians, and I don't need to name names because you all know exactly who I mean without any need to spell it out, whose expressions of sympathy, no doubt sincerely meant, came over like Mel Smith in the sketch above.
We need to learn from this.

We need to dial down the level of personal criticism of our opponents, and dial up the recognition of things where we accept they may have a point. The strength of a democratic society is our ability to learn from one another, and none of us have a monopoly of wisdom or virtue.

Quote of the day 17th October 2021

"Everyone – at least every sensible, decent person, of which there are many – in Labour’s ranks knows it’s wrong. Keir Starmer knows it. Angela Rayner knows it. Every Labour MP knows it.

"It can’t continue like this. It can’t take the killing of a Conservative MP in their constituency" ... "for the Left to set aside their tribalism and acknowledge the essential decency of one of their opponents."

"Not least because that tribalism will not be set aside for long. Tomorrow, the House of Commons will gather for a moment of reflection. Sir Keir Starmer and other Labour MPs will help lead the tributes. And then it will be back to business as usual. ‘Tories – they hate the poor, they hate the migrants. They deserve everything they get.’

They don’t. Because they’re not ‘scum’. Tories are good, honest, decent, committed public servants, who just happen to have a different political philosophy.

David Amess wasn’t the exception, he was the rule. And it’s time for people on the Left – indeed, for all of us – to start to recognise it."

(Dan Hodges, former Labour and Trade union staffer, in a newspaper article calling for the dialling down of tribal demonisation of political opponents of right or left, which you can read in full here.)

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Saturday music spot: "My Heart is Inditing" by G.F. Handel

Better broadband for schools

This week it was confirmed that more than one thousand schools in hard-to-reach areas are now connected to lightning-fast full fibre broadband – delivering on Conservative plans to level up schools across the country and build back better.  

  • Whilst most schools in urban or suburban areas in the UK have access to high-speed broadband, many schools in hard-to-reach areas in particular cannot access these speeds and were not in line to receive upgrades commercially. 
  • That is why the government has focused investment in these areas, and now children and teachers in more than one thousand schools –  many in rural areas such as Norfolk and the Highlands – are being supplied with lightning-fast gigabit broadband so they can enjoy next-generation internet speeds. Work is also underway to bring gigabit speeds to even more schools, with 884 earmarked to be connected by March next year. 
  • This is part of the Conservative mission to level up internet access across the UK and to give children better access to learning opportunities no matter where they live as we build back better.
  • In the interests of full disclosure I should make clear that I am an Openreach employee and a BT shareholder, though I am posting this as a Conservative activist: none of the information in this post came directly from BT sources and it does not necessarily represent the views of BT or Openreach.